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Ideation: Bright Sports on the Menu

Restaurant kitchens get creative with winter produce, adding bursts of color and flavor to the plate.

Warm Spinach Salad with Candied Shiitake Mushrooms, Pano’s & Paul’s, Atlanta, Georgia

A salad is a welcome course in the cold weather, especially when it’s tossed with a warm dressing, shiitakes and bacon. “I glaze the mushrooms in teriyaki, ginger, garlic and honey to enhance their earthiness,” says executive chef Gary Donlick. “The sweetness contrasts nicely with the smoky bacon and spinach.”

Charred Red Onion and Apple Tart, English Grill at the Brown Hotel, Louisville, Kentucky

Storage onions are easy to come by all winter long and chef de cuisine Phil Powers makes the most of them. To liven up this tart, he turns to red onions instead of yellow or white, then chars and sautés them to coax out their sweetness. Caramelized apples and brie are perfect counterpoints. 

Roasted Sweet Potato Salsa with Pork Chops, Foster’s Market, Durham, North Carolina

If chef-owner Sara Foster runs out of an ingredient, she can grab it from her store—the café and market share the same space. Local farm products make their way into many menu items, including North Carolina’s native sweet potatoes. Their flesh retains its vivid orange color even when roasted for salsa. 

Winter Pear Salad, Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes, San Diego, California-based

Daily made-from-scratch specials augment the soup, salad and pasta selections at this “all-you-care-to-eat” concept. The emphasis is on fresh, but canned, frozen and dried fruits and vegetables also make their way onto the menu. This salad offers a healthy mix of canned pears, walnuts and assorted lettuces.

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